Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Summertime Blues

I wasn't ready, in 1975, to appreciate all that was Bruce Springsteen. I was just coming down from a heavy dose of Elton John and was on my way toward Billy Joel. I was in junior high, and wasn't ready to get all that New Jersey in me. Long Island was pretty fierce to my tender young ears. All that piano attitude filled me with what would become considerable angst in the years to come. I knew Bruce was out there. But I wasn't ready.
I went so far as to make fun of him. I was one of those smart alecks who sneered at the way he sang, and sniffed at the notion that anyone, especially a rock star deserved to be on the cover of Time and Newsweek simultaneously. Really? Where were their priorities, after all? This is the future of rock and roll? Puh-leeze.
For my birthday in 1981, I was given "Greetings From Asbury Park" by a girl who told me, "I know how much you like music, I think you'll like this." And since I had secretly imagined that I was going to seduce this young woman after the party was over. I listened to her wax on about seeing "The Boss" live and how it changed her life, or at least a corner of it. Yeah, right.
I knew that Springsteen was going to be in town a couple of months later, and since I liked music, I suggested we get tickets to the show. It sounded like a drunken good time, and so the next morning, I shook off the cobwebs of a hangover to stand in what I will now always remember as the shortest line possible to buy tickets for Bruce Springsteen. I walked up to the counter and bought two. "Which show?" the guy asked. "He's playing two nights." I told him I didn't really know, and so he suggested the second night. What did I know?
Well, as it turns out, I knew nothing. The young lady I had expected to join me had become a bad idea by the time the show rolled around, and so I went with another doubter. We were both willing to be entertained, but we weren't ready for Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. That night, we were tested in ways no ordinary audience can be tested. Bruce was out to show that he could play harder and sing longer than we could. He was out to let us know the hype was real.
By the twenty-third song, we were all fairly whipped, but he and the band came back for an encore that had us all twisting, shouting, and ready for surrender. That's when I heard "Jungleland" for the first time. All that rocking and rolling turned into an epic song about ballets being fought out in the alley and operas out on the turnpike. And that's when I drank the Kool-Aid, the Bruce Juice. I was sold. The saxophone sole at the heart of the song filled the Rocky Mountain night, and I was ready. It wasn't just Bruce Springsteen. It was the hardest working band in the business. They were all there to make sure that when the night was over, we'd come back. For thirty years, that's the way it's been.
Clarence "Big Man" Clemons passed away this past weekend. The Ayatollah of Rock and Rollah. The Master of Disaster. The King of the World. I wasn't ready for that.


Anonymous said...

May he rest in peace.

Meanwhile, I'm hoping my dentist doesn't tell me that Bruce Juice is bad for my teeth.


Catalysis Business Solutions said...

Jungleland is one of the most poetic, passionate, driving pieces of music from the 20th century, & the big-mans sax is as eloquent as springsteens lyrics. I am glad thee is at least one other fan of that song. Now try The National - High Violet.